Belfast Telegraph

'There's no more cash to resolve budget crisis'

By Michael Mchugh

Theresa Villiers has said there will be no extra money to help Northern Ireland resolve its budget dispute.

She reiterated calls for politicians to implement the Stormont House Agreement and said the prospect of the First Minister or Deputy First Minister resigning and a cycle of Assembly elections should be avoided.

Ms Villiers was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs at Westminster yesterday.

She said: "We won't be giving additional money to Northern Ireland on top of the £2bn or so in extra spending power which comes with the Stormont House Agreement.

"That is still very much on the table, we hope the agreement will ultimately be deliverable, in which case the financial package comes with it.

"We are not going to top up that financial package, we don't think it would be right to fund a more expensive welfare system for Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK."

The agreement was signed between the five main Northern Ireland parties in December, and Prime Minister David Cameron said that extra financial "firepower" had been agreed for the devolved administration.

It subsequently emerged that much of that finance involved extra flexibility around loans, as well as offers to fund a civil service redundancy scheme which has been criticised by trade unions but supported by ministers.

The Treasury has promised to provide £500m to fund shared and integrated education projects over the next 10 years, as well as £350m in loans for other infrastructure schemes over the next four years.

Sinn Fein is seeking an additional £1.5b for Northern Ireland. That equates to the amount of spending power which Stormont power-sharing ministers have lost over the course of the last parliament, the party said.

It is refusing to implement welfare reforms which have been ordered by the Conservative Government, over fears that "austerity" would hurt the most vulnerable.

Belfast Telegraph

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